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East Anglia Future 50

Behind the scenes at the clothing business bringing fishing flair back to Lowestoft

PUBLISHED: 08:52 11 July 2019 | UPDATED: 08:52 11 July 2019

Simon Middleton, owner of Blackshore Clothing in Whapload Road, Lowestoft is looking to recruit local people to make his range of coastal-inspired clothing.  Picture: Neil Didsbury

Simon Middleton, owner of Blackshore Clothing in Whapload Road, Lowestoft is looking to recruit local people to make his range of coastal-inspired clothing. Picture: Neil Didsbury

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A clothing company which pays homage to Lowestoft's rich fishing heritage has begun operating in the town.

Blackshore Clothing in Whapload Road, Lowestoft is producing a clothing range inspired by what local fishermen would have worn a hundred years ago.  Picture: Neil DidsburyBlackshore Clothing in Whapload Road, Lowestoft is producing a clothing range inspired by what local fishermen would have worn a hundred years ago. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Blackshore British Coastal Clothing has moved into its new premises on Whapload Road, once the beating heart of Lowestoft's historic fishing village.

Founded in 2017, the company prides itself on helping to revive garment manufacturing and using materials that originate from within the British Isles.

Cathy Bilton from Norwich hard at work creating the new nautical-inspired fashion range from Lowestoft-based Blackshore Clothing. Picture: Neil DidsburyCathy Bilton from Norwich hard at work creating the new nautical-inspired fashion range from Lowestoft-based Blackshore Clothing. Picture: Neil Didsbury

With production under way in an old fishing net factory, co-founder Simon Middleton says he is eager to bring a growing fashion trend back to its spiritual home.

"We're going to be making men's casual wear, what's known as work wear," said Mr Middleton. "It's the sort of clothing people would've worn on the docks 100 years ago.

Simon Middleton, owner of Blackshore Clothing in Whapload Road, Lowestoft is looking to recruit local people to make his range of coastal-inspired clothing.  Picture: Neil DidsburySimon Middleton, owner of Blackshore Clothing in Whapload Road, Lowestoft is looking to recruit local people to make his range of coastal-inspired clothing. Picture: Neil Didsbury

"Initially we were going to make clothing around the country, but doing it locally is in line with what we're trying to achieve and renting an old fishing net factory gives us somewhere with a story.

"Our products are beautifully made and some have been shipped out for delivery, so we're officially up and running. It's a small operation at the moment, but potentially a really exciting one."

The building that Lowestoft-based Blackshore Clothing have taken over in Whapload Road was once used to make fishing nets. Picture: Neil DidsburyThe building that Lowestoft-based Blackshore Clothing have taken over in Whapload Road was once used to make fishing nets. Picture: Neil Didsbury

As Blackshore salutes the industry which once helped Lowestoft thrive, there is a desire within the company to give something back to the town.

"Our first machinist has started but we're looking for more," added Mr Middleton. "Ultimately we want to create jobs and eventually open up a shop.

Simon Middleton, owner of Blackshore Clothing in Lowestoft, modelling one of the company’s new jackets. Picture: Neil DidsburySimon Middleton, owner of Blackshore Clothing in Lowestoft, modelling one of the company’s new jackets. Picture: Neil Didsbury

"Sustainability is very important and there are no plastics involved in production - even the packaging is made from old sails.

"We're based in the Heritage Action Zone and the people behind that have been very supportive. In fact, everyone in Lowestoft has been really positive and welcoming."

Blackshore Clothing in Lowestoft currently has one seamstress, Cathy Bilton from Norwich, but is looking to recruit more locally. Picture: Neil DidsburyBlackshore Clothing in Lowestoft currently has one seamstress, Cathy Bilton from Norwich, but is looking to recruit more locally. Picture: Neil Didsbury

In addition to accommodating his own company, Mr Middleton envisages the factory space becoming an artistic hub for local talents.

"The factory is too big for what we need, so I'm trying to find local craftspeople to rent little studio spaces," he said.

Simon Middleton, owner of Blackshore Clothing in Lowestoft, is creating a fashion line based on the kind of clothes people working on the docks of Lowestoft would have worn 100 years ago.  Picture: Neil DidsburySimon Middleton, owner of Blackshore Clothing in Lowestoft, is creating a fashion line based on the kind of clothes people working on the docks of Lowestoft would have worn 100 years ago. Picture: Neil Didsbury

"If possible, I'd like to create a little arts community for those who want to get out of their back bedrooms and instead work alongside like-minded people.

"I'm also on the hunt for another investor, someone to really get things off the ground, someone who is all about creating jobs and sustainability."

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